BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO: DA QUI MESSERE SI DOMINA LA VALLE (1991)
1) In Volo; 2) R.I.P.; 3) Passaggio; 4) Metamorfosi; 5) Il Giardino Del Mago; 6) Traccia; 7) L'Evoluzione; 8) La Conquista Della Posizione Eretta; 9) La Danza Dei Grandi Rettili; 10) Cento Mani, Cento Occhi; 11) 750,000 Anni Fa... L'Amore; 12) Miserere Alla Storia; 13) Ed Ora Io Domando Tempo Al Tempo.
As the 1990s introduced their «revivalist» spirit, and former sellouts, one by one, started shaking off the slick commercial haze, Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso came to their senses as well — alas, at the expense of losing Gianni Nocenzi, so this here is a one-kidney band trying to restore and then preserve what can be restored and preserved of its former face.
They did it in a strange way, though: by completely re-recording their first two albums and releasing the new versions both separately and as a 2-CD package, subtitled with a line from ʽIn Voloʼ. As far as I understand, they were the only ones of the major prog veterans to have done that — allegedly, the «restoration» of Yes was also due to re-recordings of old classics (Keys To Ascension), but those were live shows, and the compositions were taken from different albums. These, in comparison, are studio productions, completely faithful to both the sequencing and the arrangements of the original versions. So what's the point?
In all honesty, since the original albums are classics, after all, a fully responsible review should take pains to carefully compare all the differences and present a well-researched conclusion on whether the subtle changes introduced in the re-recordings may be qualified as improvements. Particularly since some of the tracks are noticeably longer (ʽR.I.P.ʼ, ʽMetamorfosiʼ, and ʽL'Evoluzioneʼ, in particular, have each been extended by about three minutes, by means of extended instrumental sections, so it seems, usually of the «atmospheric» variety — such as the new lengthy build-up to ʽConquista Della Posizione Erettaʼ). But I am rather loath to assume this responsibility — the task seems more appropriate for professional Bancologists, not for someone who is just here to offer a quick en-passant judgement.
Hence, my irresponsible judgement is as follows: The re-recordings are listenable, but the subtle changes, on the whole, are (predictably) detrimental. Of course, in 1991 they do have the benefit of better production values than in 1972, but that benefit is brought to nought when you realize that (a) the drums sound pretty bad, with tinny electronic effects disrupting the tight focus; (b) even though it is the piano player and not the guitarist who has left (piano parts are handled either by brother Vittorio or guest player Piercarlo Penta), it is often the guitar parts that suffer the most, as can easily be seen already on ʽR.I.P.ʼ — Maltese uses unnecessary electronic effects throughout, so that, overall, the live and intimate feel of the original is replaced by digital murk that does not trigger the same kind of emotional response (to put it mildly).
DiGiacomo is completely on the level throughout, and it is not as if, having never heard the originals, you would be hard pressed to understand what all the fuss was about — the melodies, structures, and overall goals are all the same. Maybe they just thought this could eventually turn into a trend: «refresh» all the classics with the new, improved aid of modern technologies. Naturally, it did not, so in retrospect, this acquires the status of a misguided historical curio, for completists only — not that there is any further danger of mistaking the re-recordings for the originals, since the originals are back in print, and the re-recordings are out of it, possibly for ever, so that once again, time is on our side.